During the colder months of the year, many guys decide to bulk in an effort to put on some size. Their main objective is to add as much lean muscle mass as possible. While in their head this seems like a simple concept, they quickly find out that their plan needs to be a little more structured after they steadily see their body fat creeping up. Their effort to increase muscle usually comes in the form of a “dirty bulk” where they eat anything and everything they want to increase their calories higher than maintenance. While that is essentially what needs to be accomplished, what they should have done is followed a clean bulk strategy that minimizes fat gained during this phase while putting yourself in an ideal situation to add quality mass.
In this article, I want to lay down some tips that you can implement when you are looking to bulk and add some size to your physique. Regardless if you are a competitor or someone who simply hits the gym regularly to get in shape and stay healthy, these tips on how to successfully clean bulk to maximize muscle gains can be applied to anyone.
1. Increase Calories Slowly & Be Mindful of Your Food Choices
Nutrition will make or break your results during your clean bulk. If you eat everything in sight, you’ve lost the clean bulk mentality and moved towards a dirty bulk. Just like when you are dieting, the same rules apply as far as choosing healthy food options. As you know from eating clean, you are able to eat more volume and get about the same number of calories as compared to eating only a little bit of junk (which isn’t satiating).
When looking at your overall calories during a clean bulk, if your maintenance is 2,000 calories,
simply increase your daily intake by around 250-500 calories. Again, this should be in clean food choices – don’t go on a binge. However, this bulking phase does allow you more flexibility with the food choices you make (for instance if you want a bowl of ice cream, go for it but don’t make it a daily habit) but you still want to always consider a healthier option whenever possible. Watch the scale as well as your body weight and add/reduce the number of calories depending on what you see.
If you’re gaining a lot of body fat during your clean bulk, reduce your calories a little. If you aren’t seeing the scale move up at all, increase your daily calories. It’s a game of math when looking for results.
2. Reduce Cardio
When you are dieting down for a show or maybe for a summer vacation, you tend to tighten up your nutrition while increasing the amount of cardio you do. If you have a super-fast metabolism, you might be able to get away with little to no cardio at all, but that is a rarity (consider yourself lucky if that’s you). When shifting towards a clean bulk, you’re going to want to do the opposite and reduce your cardio (but not completely). There are obvious health benefits (heart health specifically) that come from engaging in cardiovascular activity. Doing cardio a few days a week will be enough to keep your ticker strong while not burning a ton of calories which would force you to eat even more throughout the day.
3. Utilize Protein Powder
Touching on where we just left off, if you find yourself having a hard time taking in enough food to put yourself in a caloric surplus during your clean bulk, consider utilizing something like a protein powder. Your protein intake is going to go up slightly during your bulk with an even higher increase in carbohydrates and even fat.
Protein powder can make your life a little easier during your clean bulk by allowing you to drink your calories and macronutrients rather than chewing and eating them. It might sound silly, but after weeks of being on a clean bulk and trying to eat a surplus of calories, it can get to the point where you don’t even want to look at food or you start feeling full. A quality protein powder can help you during these times.
Simply pour some water into a shaker or blender, add your protein powder, mix/shake, and you have yourself a delicious protein shake that will go down smooth and easy. Utilize them whenever you either need more calories during the day or when you need to increase your daily protein intake during your clean bulk.
Want to take things one step further? Use the blender with your protein powder and if you want to increase the calories per shake, use something like almond milk instead of water, add in some natural peanut butter for healthy fats and an increase in calories, and even toss in some fresh fruit such as a banana or even some oats for some good carbs. Add some ice to top it off and blend it all together. Be creative with your shakes and it will make your clean bulk more enjoyable.
Note – if you want a great quality protein powder for your clean bulk, give NutriFitt Whey Fitt a try.
4. Lift HEAVY
Now for the fun part (at least for me) – the training aspect of your clean bulk. It’s time to dig deep and lift heavy. The nice thing about being in a caloric surplus during your clean bulk is that you should definitely have increased energy levels which can equate to some intense workouts where you push yourself to the boundaries with some serious weight. Now is the time to put all those carbohydrates to good use and load up the bar or move down the dumbbell rack and use some heavier dumbbells.
Now note, I’m not saying to utilize a weight that you can’t control or lift properly. What I’m recommending is pushing yourself a little harder by either adding a little more weight to your exercises each week or by increasing the total amount lifted in the sense of pushing out more reps or adding more sets to your workout to provide an overload on the muscles. Remember, your goal is to train smart regardless if you are doing a clean bulk or not. Getting injured will not help you reach your goal of adding quality lean muscle mass to your frame.
During this time, really focus on the compound movements where you can really load up the weight and overload the muscle. Constantly strive to better your previous workouts. And when you’re done with your workouts, make yourself a protein shake to allow the liquid protein source to be easily absorbed and shuttled out to the muscles to jumpstart the recovery process.
Matt Weik, owner of Weik Fitness, LLC, is a well-respected fitness expert/author with a global following. His work has been featured in nearly 100 fitness magazines, 5,000+ websites, as well as having published numerous books and audiobooks.
He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. You can contact Matt via www.weikfitness.com or on social media @weikfitness.